Running a Marathon [Literally]

Full disclosure: this post has nothing to do with food.

Well, in the photo above my brother is holding a banana.  So it’s sort of food related.

Ok, other than the banana, this post has nothing to do with food.  But I hope you will read it anyway.

My little brother Justin is the greatest. Really, I couldn’t love him more. I mean sure, there was that time when we were little and taking a bath together and he pooped in the tub. And the time he used a spoon to sling-shot sand into my eye while we were playing in the little green turtle sandbox in our yard. And the time he “accidentally” knocked out my two front (baby) teeth WHILE I WAS TRYING TO SAVE HIM FROM FALLING DOWN THE STAIRS.  But honestly, all is forgiven.

So anyway, my brother. He’s amazing. He’s one of the best friends I could have asked for (even though he is a tub pooper).  And five years ago, at the age of 23 he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). After undergoing months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, Justin received a hematopoietic stem cell transplant which was followed eventually by a double lung transplant in April 2012. These past few years have been an incredible challenge for him and for our entire family, to say the least.

Today, my brother is not just alive, but thriving.  And a few weeks ago Justin made the commitment to run the NYC Marathon as a member of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team In Training (TNT) in order to raise funds to help find cures and better treatments for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, and myeloma.  I am incredibly proud of my brother, and in an effort to support his run and support the LLS, I have committed to run the marathon with him.

Ok, people who know me well are laughing really hard right now at the idea of me running a marathon, because they know that I absolutely hate to exercise and that I firmly believe that running should be reserved for situations in which one is being chased by the police, or a bear, or what have you. BUT, I love my brother so much and I want to support him, so I’m going to willingly break and sweat and run 26.2 miles. After everything he has been through, it seems like the least I can do.

But if I’m ever going to reach the finish line with my brother, I’m going to need your help. I have pledged to raise at least $3,900 to support my efforts with TNT and help advance research for cures. If you are able, please consider making a donation today.  Your donation, no matter the size, will be incredibly important to me and deeply appreciated. 

There are also other ways for you to show your support. Please share my fundraising page widely with your networks (roll over the “Tell Your Friends” menu on my fundraiser page for some easy, one-click options) and tell your friends and family about the mission of my TNT and LLS.

Thank you in advance for your support. I look forward to updating you on my progress over the next few months!  Oh, and I promise to post something food related soon too!

–Sara…

Canning Swap Tomorrow & Pickled Beet Demonstration

Just a quick reminder to everyone that tomorrow, November 3rd from 12:30 – 3:00 pm is the Pittsburgh Canning Exchange’s first Canning Swap! The swap is being held at the new Pittsburgh Public Market location at 2401 Penn Avenue in the Strip District. Here is a schedule of the day’s events:

  • 12:30 PM: Canning Swap participants arrive to set up and Pickle Contest entrants drop off their two jars of pickles for judging.
  • 1 PM: Canning Swap commences!
  • 1:45 PM: Canning Swap ends; pickle and Crested Duck Charcuterie tasting begins. Legume’s Trevett Hooper speaks on cooking with preserved food.
  • 2:15 PM: Cook.Can.CSA.’s Sara Kreidler (that’s me!) does a beet pickling demonstration; Pickle Contest winner announced!

I hope to see lots of you guys at the Canning Swap tomorrow, and hope you will stick around for the pickled beet demonstration I’ll be doing towards the end of the swap. If you can’t make it to the swap tomorrow and are looking for information on pickled beets, here is my recipe.…

Canned Pickled Beets

We canned for the first time last year, and our first canning experience was pickled beets.  Toby’s mom and kind enough to come over and spend the day teaching us.  We learned that (1) canning wasn’t so scary after all, and (2) canning beets was a LOT of work.  Today, we revisited the second lesson.

If you follow this blog, you know that we’ve put up a ton of food this summer (most notably, 180 pounds of tomatoes which yielded 80 quarts of crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce), so we’re not strangers to waking up early on weekends, spending a good chunk of the day prepping and canning food and cleaning up the aftermath.  We’ve had many canning adventures this summer, and even on the longest, messiest days, I found myself thinking well, it’s still not as bad as canning beets.

Today, we canned a half bushel of beets (plus about 5 more pounds that had accumulated in the fridge), which yielded 28 pints.  We started at 8 am and finished up around 1:30 pm, and it would have taken a good deal longer had we not used our patented double kettle technique. Canning beets is a ton of work and it makes an incredible mess; I had to wipe down the counters, cabinets and floors several times because first they were splattered with dirt from the scrubbing phase, and then they were splattered with red beet juice from the canning phase, and then I found more places where somehow dirt and/or beet juice had landed.  But the hard labor is well worth it; we love having these sweet, tangy, earthy beets all winter long — they make otherwise dull winter salads taste amazing.

We adapted the Ball Blue Book recipe of pickled beets; the Blue Book calls for adding cinnamon and allspice to the brine, but Toby’s mom doesn’t add those spices to her beets and we wanted ours to be as close to hers as possible.

The following recipe is for approximately 5 pounds of beets, which will yield 5-6 pints (we just multiplied the recipe by 5 to cover our 25 or so pounds of beets).

Adapted from the Ball Blue Book

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds beets
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 1/2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Instructions

  1. Wash the jars in the dishwasher.
  2. While the jars are washing, scrub and rinse the beets to remove as much dirt as possible.  Place the washed beets in a large pot and fill with water.  Bring pot to a boil and cook beets until fork tender (it took about 45 minutes for us, but the time will depend upon the size of your pot and the size of your beets). Drain beets and discard cooking water.  Allow beets to cool slightly.  Wearing food safe latex or rubber gloves to prevent your hands from becoming stained, peel the beets by scrubbing them with a paper towel — the skins should slip right off, but you may have to cut away stubborn spots with a pairing knife.  Discard skins. Cut off and discard any bad spots on the beets. Cut larger beets into chunks.  Set prepared beets aside.
  3. Also, while the jars are washing, prep your canning area.  I like to put down old (clean) kitchen towels and hot pads so I don’t have to worry about scorching the counter.  Get your jar lifter, lid wand, ladle, rings, lids, and wide mouth funnel ready.  I use a chopstick to remove air bubbles, but you can also use a small plastic spatula or plastic spoon (just don’t use a metal utensil, which can scratch and/or crack your jars).
  4. Remove hot jars from dishwasher, place inside canner and fill the canner with hot water so that all of the jars are full and covered by 1 inch of water.  Put the canner on your largest burner and bring the water to a boil.
  5. Bring a small pot of water to a simmer.  Add the lids to the simmering water; do not boil the lids.
  6. Combine the sugar, salt, vinegar and water in a large pot and bring to a boil.  Stir to make sure the salt and sugar have dissolved.
  7. Remove the pots of simmering lids and brine from the stove and place on hot pads near your jar filling station.  Place the beets near your filling station.  Have the canning tools listed in step 3 handy.
  8. Remove 1 jar from the canning pot and dump out the water.  Pack the beets in the jars. Place the jar on the counter, place the funnel on top of the jar and ladle in the hot brine, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top of the jar. Take the funnel off of the jar and use a chopstick to remove the air bubbles; add more brine if needed to maintain 1/4 inch of headspace after the jar is de-bubbled.  Wipe the rim of the jar with a damp paper towel.  Use the lid wand to remove 1 lid from the pot and place it on top of the jar.  Screw the ring onto the jar until it is finger-tip tight (you don’t want it to be too tight or the air won’t be able to escape during processing).  Repeat with each jar until all of the jars are full.
  9. Return the jars to the boiling water in the canner.  The water should cover the jars by at least 1 inch. Place the lid on the canner and process at a full boil for 30 minutes. Remove the jars from the canner and place on a towel on the counter.  Do not disturb the jars while they cool.
  10. Label the sealed jars and store in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year.  If any of the lids fail to seal, the unsealed jars should be refrigerated because they are not shelf stable.